Arkee Whitlock is back practising in pads this week, but won’t be ready in time for Saturday’s game against the B.C. Lions.
After sitting on the sidelines since training camp with a hamstring tear, the Edmonton Eskimos running back took the first steps toward returning to game form.
“I was like a kid in a candy store. It’s been a long time for me,” said Whitlock, 27. “It’s a little different from training camp, I think. In training camp, you’re still trying to get a feel for things. And right now, it’s on. It’s game time.”
Since breaking into the CFL in 2009 as the first Eskimo to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Troy Davis chased down 1,060 yards in 2006, Whitlock spent the latter half of 2010 on the nine-game injured list healing a bad foot.
Whitlock, who had 1,293 yards as a rookie, saw that production cut in half last year and hasn’t played since the 2010 Labour Day Classic.
“It’s been a while since I’d actually been on the turf as far as preparation, and just being out there with the guys,” said Whitlock, who is torn between fully healing and rushing back to action. “I was more excited about putting on my pads than anything.
“The players want to get out there and play, especially myself. I’m begging them every day to get more reps. They’ll increase the load day by day and see where it goes from there.”
Whether it leads to another 1,000-yard rushing season for Whitlock is unlikely, considering the running-back position has been handled by committee and fellow teammates Daniel Porter and Jerome Messam have had 100-yard games in his absence.
“It just shows what we’ve been capable of all along. And we’ve still got room to be better,” Whitlock said. “These running backs coming in, they’ve been doing a great job of doing what needs to be done to get the win.
“I think when you’ve got a bunch of guys working hard, putting their life on the line for each other, you tend to come out successful.”
And if that means giving up the starting spotlight to reach the winning way, Whitlock’s ego is happy to share the carries.
“We all complement each other, we all play well together,” Whitlock said. “We are all team guys. That’s the only way you can really do it.
“When you’re all going to go out there and fight for each other, then it’s easy to do and nobody complains about reps.”
In the new Eskimos regime, the running backs might have to add their totals together at the end of the year to reach 1,000 yards. But statistics are a small price to pay.
“In positions where guys are going to take a pounding like the running-back position, it’s vitally important to have depth,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “Fortunately, for us, we have tremendous depth there.”
IN AND OUT: RB Calvin McCarty sat out for a second day with a minor sprain, while LB Rod Davis (hamstring) remained on the sidelines and will not play Saturday.
FLIPPING OUT: Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams made a rare appearance at practice Wednesday. The Eskimos kick-returning legend was chatting it up with Reed and some of the players.
DANGLIN’ CARAT: The first 1,000 women through the turnstiles Saturday will have a chance to be one of 52 invited on the field in a dash for a one-carat diamond ring during Eskimos Ladies’ Night.